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Refiguring the Sacred Feminine

The Poems of John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, and John Milton

By Theresa M. DiPasquale

Publication Year: 2008

Theresa M. DiPasquale’s study of John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, and John Milton demonstrates how each of these seventeenth century English poets revised, reformed, and renewed the Judeo-Christian tradition of the sacred feminine. The central figures of this tradition—divine Wisdom, created Wisdom, the Bride, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Ecclesia—are essential to the works of Donne, Lanyer, and Milton. All three poets are deeply invested in the ancient, scripturally authorized belief that the relationship between God and humankind is gendered: God is father, bridegroom, king; the human soul and the church as corporate entity are daughter, bride, and consort.

This important text not only casts new light on these poets and on the history of Christian doctrine and belief, but also makes enormous contributions to our understanding of the feminine more broadly. It will be of interest to scholars who study the literature, religion, and culture of early modern England, to feminist theologians, and to any reader grappling seriously with gender issues in Christian theology and spirituality.

Published by: Duquesne University Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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Editorial Note

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pp. xi-xii

The first quotation from any particular poem or collection of poems is documented in a footnote identifying the source by editor’s name, title, and page number[s]; subsequent quotations are cited parenthetically by title and line...

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p. xiii

This book is the fruit of many years’ labor. I am grateful to family, friends, colleagues, and students who have encouraged me, put up with me, guided me, and enriched...

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pp. 1-12

John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, and John Milton each revised and renewed the Judeo-Christian tradition of the sacred feminine. Rooted in the Hebrew scriptures, further developed in the New Testament, and expanded upon in the writings...

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pp. 13-104

John Donne’s poetics, his explorations of human sexuality and love, and his portrayals of spiritual struggle are all intricately entwined with his response to post-Reformation theological issues. Whether a Donne persona...

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pp. 105-214

Aemilia Lanyer’s Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum is concerned with ecclesiastical, theological, social, aesthetic, and political issues. But for Lanyer, gender is the terminus a quo for every question she considers and the....

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pp. 215-310

For all their boldness in poetically recasting the sacred feminine, neither John Donne nor Aemilia Lanyer was a revolutionary in the ordinary sense of the word. Donne did pose challenges to a wide variety of orthodoxies: to lyric...

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pp. 311-316

John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, and John Milton challenge their readers to rethink, from a variety of post-Reformation perspectives, the relationship between the...


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pp. 317-354


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pp. 355-382


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pp. 383-392

E-ISBN-13: 9780820705194
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704050

Page Count: 405
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 794700839
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Refiguring the Sacred Feminine

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Lanyer, Aemilia -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Women -- Religious aspects.
  • Femininity -- Religious aspects.
  • Femininity (Philosophy) in literature.
  • Donne, John, 1572-1631 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Women in literature.
  • Milton, John, -- 1608-1674 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • English poetry -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism.
  • Christian poetry, English -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism.
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